Political Notes: Out Stockton, Santa Cruz candidates secure key endorsers

  • by Matthew S. Bajko, Assistant Editor
  • Monday December 18, 2023
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Stockton City Council candidate Mario Enríquez, left, has been endorsed by state Senator Susan Talamantes Eggman, a former member of the City Council. Photo: Courtesy the candidate
Stockton City Council candidate Mario Enríquez, left, has been endorsed by state Senator Susan Talamantes Eggman, a former member of the City Council. Photo: Courtesy the candidate

Out candidates seeking local offices in the Central Valley and along California's Central Coast picked up key endorsements this month for their campaigns. Both are aiming to break through rainbow political glass ceilings with their 2024 bids for elected office on the March primary ballot.

In Stockton, Mario Enríquez is aiming to be the first out male to serve on the City Council in the county seat of San Joaquin County. A gay man, he would also be the first LGBTQ community leader on the municipal governing body since 2012.

Seeking to become the first LGBTQ person elected to the Santa Cruz County Board of Supervisors is Monica Martinez. The nonprofit executive and queer mom would also be the first woman to serve on the countywide body since 2012.

The Stockton City Council has not had out LGBTQ representation on it since Susan Talamantes Eggman (D) departed for the state Assembly. Now a state senator who will be termed out next December, Eggman last weekend endorsed Enríquez in his race for the District 4 council seat.

"As the first out LGBTQ+ elected official to serve on Stockton City Council, an educator, and veteran legislator, I am proud to endorse Mario Enríquez in his run for Stockton City Council," stated Eggman during an event at her home December 10. "Mario is a passionate, dedicated leader who has impressed me with his unwavering drive to educate and engage Stocktonians in local government. His career in higher education and youth development is at the center of his approach to leadership and has prepared him to be a strong public servant."

Enríquez noted that Eggman's support is "truly an honor" and gives him "energy to know she has my back" in an email he sent supporters December 13.

"From one LGBTQ+ leader to the next, I am excited to carry on the legacy of ensuring we have a pro-equality voice on the Stockton City Council. Our campaign is going to continue to work hard to win this seat. I'm more confident than ever," he wrote.

Labor rights icon and Stockton native Dolores Huerta also this month endorsed Enríquez, as did the San Joaquin Democratic Party. Gay Tracy City Councilmember Dan Arriola is also backing him in the council race.

As the Political Notes column reported in April, Enríquez is the director of the Center for Identity and Inclusion at the University of the Pacific, his alma mater. Born in San Jose to parents who had left Mexico for the U.S., Enríquez and his family moved to Lathrop, just south of Stockton, in 1997.

He moved back to the city in 2022 after being hired by the private college. He had been working for the LGBTQ Victory Fund's educational arm, the Victory Institute, as its director of constituent engagement.

The District 4 seat is open, as its current holder, Stockton City Councilmember Susan Lenz, will be termed out of office as of December 31, 2024. Also seeking the seat are businesswoman Gina Valadez-Bracamonte; bookkeeper Patrick Wanket; education leaders Douglas I. Vigil and Ray C. Zulueta Jr.; attorney Jerome Anthony Clay Jr.; and nonprofit leader Henry Rodriguez.

With so many candidates running, it is unlikely someone will secure more than 50% percent of the vote in March to win the seat outright. Thus, the top two vote-getters are likely to advance to a runoff race on the November ballot.

After having to cancel planned fundraisers in San Francisco this fall, Enríquez is now scheduled to host an event in partnership with Equality California, the statewide LGBTQ advocacy organization, from 6 to 8 p.m. Wednesday, January 17, at the gay-owned events space and cafe Manny's, located at 3092 16th Street in the city's Mission district.

Santa Cruz County Board of Supervisors candidate Monica Martinez, left, received the endorsement of outgoing Supervisor Bruce McPherson, who is not seeing reelection to the District 5 seat for which she is running. Photo: Courtesy the candidate  

Santa Cruz race update
When Santa Cruz County Supervisor Bruce McPherson announced last summer that he would retire at the end of his third term rather than run for reelection next year, Martinez jumped into the race to succeed him in the board's District 5 seat. It includes the San Lorenzo Valley and its communities of Ben Lomond, Boulder Creek, and Felton, where Martinez resides.

As the Bay Area Reporter's Political Notebook column in the December 6 issue noted, Martinez would be the first woman elected to the District 5 seat; she told the B.A.R. a woman was appointed to it in 1979 and served two years. She would also be the first woman elected to the county board since 2008.

In a Facebook post and news release sent out December 10, Martinez announced that McPherson had endorsed her in the race.

"I believe Monica has the right skill set, experience and dedication to our community needed to take on this role," stated McPherson. "She has been a terrific leader for our county, especially when it comes to health and human services, which are critical areas for the Board of Supervisors. I know she will work hard for the people of the Fifth District."

Martinez, a co-parent of two young children she and her former partner adopted out of the foster care system, called having McPherson's support an honor.

"He has dedicated his career to public service, and knowing he is confident that I will be a strong voice for the Fifth District means a lot to me. I'm grateful for his lifetime of service to our community, and I look forward to building on his good work as Fifth District supervisor," stated Martinez.

Also pulling papers to seek the seat were Christopher Bradford and Theresa Bond, who have been focused on water issues in the district, and Tom Decker, who works for a company that builds accessory dwelling units.

As Martinez previously told the B.A.R., she is aiming to win the seat outright in March and avoid a November runoff so she can focus on the leadership transition at Encompass Community Services, where she has been executive director since 2014, that her victory in the race will require rather than spending the rest of the year also campaigning for the seat. The winner will be sworn into office next December.

The Bakersfield native worked for the YMCA of San Francisco as a summer camp employee while attending Cal Poly in San Luis Obispo. She went on to earn a master's in public administration at the University of Southern California and worked to provide services to homeless women living on Los Angeles' Skid Row.

In 2010, the nonprofit Housing Matters of Santa Cruz County hired her as its executive director. Like Enríquez, this is Martinez's first time seeking public office.

Due to the upcoming holidays, the Political Notes column will return Monday, January 8.

Keep abreast of the latest LGBTQ political news by following the Political Notebook on Threads @ https://www.threads.net/@matthewbajko

Got a tip on LGBTQ politics? Call Matthew S. Bajko at (415) 829-8836 or e-mail [email protected]

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